Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon was recently placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list. He tested positive on Wednesday, but head coach Zac Taylor said it would be possible for him to test out of the protocols before Sunday. With that said, the Bengals already have home-field advantage in the Wild Card round, and they aren’t likely to move up to the No. 1 seed. With this in mind, will Mixon play this weekend, and what should fantasy football managers expect from the Cincinnati backfield in Week 18?
Joe Mixon’s 2021 production
Mixons’ been healthy in 2021, resulting in an elite season. He posted 1,205 yards and 13 touchdowns on 292 carries over 16 games. Additionally, Mixon generated 42 receptions, 314 yards, and 3 more scores on 48 targets.
In the middle of the year, he had an incredible stretch, running for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns in Week 11 against the Raiders. He followed that up with 165 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Steelers in Week 12. However, since then, Mixon hasn’t eclipsed more than 65 yards on the ground. Nevertheless, he recorded 135 total yards and 2 TDs in Week 16 against the Ravens.
Will Mixon play vs. the Browns in Week 18?
On Wednesday, the Bengals added Mixon to the COVID list, and Adam Schefter reported that he wouldn’t suit up this week. Yet, HC Taylor argued that Mixon could potentially test out of the protocols by Sunday, which would make him eligible to play.
Still, the Bengals have already announced that they will rest several starters for this game. They have a shot at moving into the No. 1 seed with a win and several losses by other teams, but that doesn’t seem to be part of their plans at this point. Ultimately, even if Mixon clears protocols, which is unlikely at this point, he will probably rest with other starters, including QB Joe Burrow.
How will Mixon’s absence affect the Bengals’ offense?
Mixon boasts a workhorse role in Cincinnati’s offense, meaning there will be quite a few snaps for others to take over. Samaje Perine is expected to draw the start. He’s been the only other running back on the roster to see significant snaps this season.
Perine has posted 246 yards and 1 touchdown on just 55 carries. He’s flashed versatility, adding 27 receptions for 196 yards and 1 score on 31 targets.
Still, Perine only recorded double-digit touches in two games this year. He finished matchups against the Packers and Ravens with 158 yards and 2 TDs on 27 touches.
Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams could find backup snaps behind Perine this weekend. Evans has seen the bigger role throughout the season, as he’s showcased potential as a receiving back. Williams will likely be the third option with a very limited role.
Are fantasy points available vs. Cleveland?
With Mixon unlikely to suit up, there will be plenty of fantasy points available for Perine. Cleveland’s allowing 17.2 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, ranking 18th in the NFL.
The biggest concern for Perine is that the Bengals are expecting to bench multiple starters, while the Browns will be playing their usual suspects. Perine should see plenty of volume, but it may not matter if there’s no efficiency. He is an RB2 option this weekend, while you should avoid Evans and Williams unless you are in deeper leagues.